Are you looking for a way to make some extra money? Why not try selling your art? You can create beautiful art pieces from recycled materials, and there is a huge market for upcycled items. This article will share some inspired upcycled art projects that you can make and sell online. These projects are perfect for small business owners who want to start a gig or add some handmade items to their shop. So get creative, and start making some beautiful art today!
Why You Should Create Art Projects Using Recycled Materials
There are many types of upcycled objects that can be used when creating beautiful artwork. These include paper, cardboard boxes, old clothes and fabric scraps, junk mail or envelopes, plastic bottles and containers, soda cans, aluminum foil—the list goes on.
The best part is that you can use recycled materials to create almost any art project. You can make paintings, sculptures, jewelry, accessories, home decor items and more. There are endless possibilities when it comes to design projects!
Here are 4 reasons why it’s a good idea to create art projects to make and sell using upcycled materials:
- It’s good for the environment: When you create designs using recycled objects, you are helping the earth by reducing the amount of trash that ends up in dumps. That’s especially helpful when it comes to some plastics that take 450 years to decompose!
- It’s very cost-effective: Besides saving the earth, you can save money by using recycled old objects instead of purchasing new ones that will likely go—you guessed it—in the dump when you are done with them.
- It’s unique and eye-catching: Upcycled creations are gorgeous and niche, making them easy to sell online or at craft fairs/markets. Just make sure that your items have tags with prices, so people know how much your stuff costs.
- It’s fun: When you make something new from old things, you’ll be surprised at what you can do when creativity strikes. If you have kids, it teaches them to be environmentally conscious in an entertaining way.
25 Ideas for Upcycled Art Projects
Several successful small businesses and individual artists generate revenue for their creations while also raising awareness of consumerism culture and the looming pollution crisis. But, unfortunately, not many companies serve a practical purpose while letting you do something you enjoy; therefore, it should be a nice change of pace. At the end of the day, you can start your business, so start looking for where to sell handmade items locally.
Ready to start your own art project business? Here are 25 recycling ideas to get you started.
1. Design Tin Can Butterflies
The first project listed has you using tin cans that people would normally throw away to make delicate butterfly sculptures. So, if you’re good with hand tools and have a small workshop, you can design polished butterfly jewelry pins or decorations for garden walls out of tin cans. You can also place a few of these handcrafted insects on a wood background for a hanging wall sign that makes for a perfect conversation piece.
Want some inspiration? Then, check out Art Now and Then’s blog page.
2. Make Portraits with Bottle Caps
Bottlecap art is popular for a few good reasons: it’s easy, fun and the results are often jaw-dropping. They are quite common too, and you can find them in landfills everywhere. You can create all sorts of things with them, even floor tile, but our personal favorite is pixel mosaic art. You’re probably familiar with the Marilyn Monroe portrait made from colorful beer bottle caps, but there are all sorts of designs you can create.
You can look at taza.co’s page for ideas.
3. Paint Using Old Crayons
Crayons aren’t just for kids and teachers anymore. Aspiring adult artists can use a heat gun or hot plate to breathe a second life into them to create dripping wall paintings. These transformed crayon paintings are actually quite beautiful and can be sold as fine art. For a truly unique piece, try using melted ones on an old dictionary page for a stunning one-of-a-kind look.
4. Make Memory Quilts from Old T-shirts
Turning old clothes into something new is a great way to reduce waste and provide sentimental pieces of art at the same time. Upcycled tees are good to use for memory quilting, and you can design a really gorgeous bedspread with just a few fabric scraps. You can make new memories for kids and teens with sports-themed quilts too. If you’re not sure how to quilt, there are plenty of online tutorials to show you the process.
5. Turn Upcycled Magazines into Collages
It’s a shame, but 85 million tons of paper waste is sent to the trash dump every year. Old mags we throw away are a part of this waste, but they are also a great source of colorful, interesting paper to use in your art projects. Another excellent way to reuse this paper and keep it out of the dumpster is to cut out images or words to design collages. You can also make three-dimensional sculptures by cutting pages into thin strips and gluing them together. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can even try crocheting with old magazine pages.
6. Teach Kids How to Make Plastic Bottle Planters
Plastic bottles are everywhere, and they’re a waste concern because of their durability. Luckily, there are all sorts of creative ways you can use these plastic containers for arts and crafts projects that let kids get involved. One clever idea is to cut the bottoms off small plastic water bottles, paint them, fill them with dirt and seeds, then turn the bottoms into little planter pots that you can place on a table or hang in your garden. Kids love making these plastic bottle planters, and it’s a great way to teach them about recycling and gardening at the same time.
7. Make DIY Sea Glass Lamps
If you’re looking for a unique and stunning art project, try turning sea glass into colorful lamps. You can find all sorts of beautiful colors at the beach, and it only takes a little bit of creativity and a few supplies to turn them into something extraordinary. From toadstool-designed sea glass night lights to lamp bases filled with LED lights that backlight thin pieces of sea glass that’s in there too, there are many jumping-off points to refer to online. If you don’t have any sea glass on hand, you can reuse marbles or small stones.
8. Design Hubcap Sculptures
You can use junk hubcaps lying around on the side of the road to make anything from flowers to whimsical animal sculptures. Some old hubcaps, a drill, a hacksaw, some spraypaint and wire are usually enough to make your sculptures come to life. Putting brightly painted hubcaps on a metal fence also gives your yard a pop of color.
9. Make Wearables out of Rubbish
There are all sorts of innovative ways to take rubbish and turn it into wearable art. For example, you can make a shirt out of an old sheet or a bag out of an old t shirt. You can also make recycled jewelry out of upcycled books, toys (kids love this one!), computer parts and melted plastic straws.
12. Upcycle Old Vases with Hot Glue
You can make all sorts of beautiful things with hot glue, and upcycling old vases are a great way to put that adhesive to good use. You can turn them into lamps, candle holders, or even just some pretty decor for your home that holds flowers (or upcycled flowers!). The best part is that you don’t need any special skills or equipment to do these projects; you typically just need the vase, a glue gun, some paint and some imagination.
12. Repurpose Old Skate Boards
Skateboarding fans are sure to love cool things like shelves, jewelry, guitar picks and barbecue grills made out of old, broken skateboards. All you need is some paint and a little bit of creativity to turn these boards into something truly unique. If you are making rings out of them, you may not even need paint since the eye-catching patterns on the boards are so beautiful.
13. Design Recycled Haute Couture
Recycled high fashion is big business, but they all had to start somewhere, right? If you are a fashionista with old clothes lying around, why not recycle them to make high-fashion garments? Fashion upcycling to make haute couture can be done with material lying around the house or from a local landfill. The material you can use includes old army blankets, parachutes, old pairs of jeans and old band t-shirts. There is a niche for this type of style, so you can often find recycled fashion shows and exhibits that are good resources for peddling your wares.
14. Recycle Old CDs
CDs may be a thing of the past, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be put to good use as home decor treasures. You can upcycle old CDs into all sorts of exciting projects, such as sun catchers, ornaments and even mirrors. The best part is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to do these projects; in fact, you can usually recycle CDs into a gorgeous design for free or next to nothing.
15. Turn Your Old Car into a Masterpiece
If you have an old car that is just collecting dust in your garage, why not put it to good use and turn it into a masterpiece? All you need is some paint (or even chalkboard paint) and a little bit of creativity. You can let your imagination run wild with this project and design any type of art that strikes your fancy. The best part is you don’t have to worry about messing up because that old jalopy isn’t going anywhere.
16. Repurpose Old Tires into Funky Furniture
Tires may seem like they are just for cars, but did you know that they can also be used to make funky and stylish furniture? For example, you can paint them and turn them into a chair, table, lamp and even a sofa. The best part is that this type of furniture is pretty sturdy and will last a long time. If you are looking for something a little more low-key, you can also use old tires to make garden tables, planters and even holiday yard decorations. Even the tires themselves can be carved decoratively and painted. You can get donated old tires from the community or collect them from landfills.
17. Put a Cork in It
From USB drives to coasters, there are all sorts of things you can make with wine corks. You can also turn them into magnets and pins or even just use them to decorate some of your other projects (like the vases we mentioned earlier). You can dye them, paint them or just leave them as they are.
Kids will have hours of fun with these DIY stamps (it’s knife intensive, so be sure to cut out the details for the younger kids before letting them use them).
18. Make Soda Can Designs
Soda cans are another fantastic item to upcycle, and there are all sorts of exciting projects you can make by reusing the aluminum in them. You can make animals, flowers, coasters, mirrors or even just some abstract designs. The best thing is that this type of art is pretty straightforward to do and doesn’t require a lot of supplies.
19. Do a DIY Light Bulb Terrarium or Aquarium
Old light bulbs may seem like a lost cause, but did you know that they actually make great terrariums and aquariums? This art project is an easy one, and all you have to do is take the old light bulb apart and add things like air plants to the terrarium or a beta fish to the mini-aquarium.
20. Embellish with Discarded Copper Wiring
Copper wiring has a distinctive color and texture, and it’s extremely versatile. It lends itself well to recycled art projects, and you can use it to make jewelry, wall hangings or even just sculpture pieces. For instance, search and find some thick copper wiring, and you can expand on #19 to make lovely hanging planters out of light bulbs. You can also use regular wire and some paint to make faux sea coral arrangements.
21. Use Old Books to Make Chic Art
Books may be great for your brain, but they can also be used to make some really chic-looking pieces. For example, you can turn them into book art sculptures or even just use pages from them as wallpaper. The good news is that you probably have lots of books lying around the house already, so you can toss a few in a pile for making some inexpensive artwork later.
22. Make Holiday Wreaths
Instead of using holly and pine fir, you can use things like maps, plastic bottles and even old magazines and postcards to make holiday wreaths. To put a unique recycled spin on this familiar wall adornment, you can also use jeans or sweaters to make them. Doing so is a great way to give your home some festive flair, and you can use things like candy wrappers or gift wrapping paper instead of traditional ribbons if you’d like.
Another idea is to make heart-shaped wreaths with upcycled black roses all around with some recycled skeletons and bats sprinkled in that can work for either Valentine’s Day or Halloween (just switch red accents out for orange).
For inspiration, look at the unique wreaths on JessMadeDesign here, or you could try your hand at making an upcycled Christmas wreath that is similar to this:
23. Use Mixed Media
Mixed media upcycling artists use a collection of found items to generate ideas for their art pieces. It is a way to show how the environment can affect your art, and you can use old book pages, lace, feathers, flip-flops and other things you can find in the trash heap to make awe-inspiring pieces.
24. Become an Artivist
Artivists (Activist + Artist) like Banksy use their artwork to bring awareness to social and political issues. Artivist Alejandro Duran uses his artwork to bring awareness to the massive problems that pollution brings and to help save the earth. For his photo series, “Washed Up,” the artivist collected plastic rubbish that he collected along the shorelines of Sian Ka’an, a UNESCO World Heritage located on the Caribbean coast of Mexico.
You can watch Alejandro Duran discuss “Washed Up” on Ted Talk by clicking here.
25. Tackle an Ambitious Upcycling Project
After you’ve gotten used to making a few upcycled projects, you can start tackling more ambitious ones like park projects. For those, you can pitch projects where you make things like sculptures, benches and tables to city officials. Alternatively, you can market this service from a gallery on your website. This type of project is more complicated than the ones we’ve mentioned above, but it’s definitely worth doing if you have the time and energy.
How to Sell Art Projects that Use Upcycled Materials
Once you’ve moved from dabbling in crafts to creating fine art, you can start selling your pieces and making money. There are many resources when it comes to where to sell art online. The best thing about selling upcycled creations is that it’s easier to find an audience for them, especially if they are eco-friendly and support a good cause. People love buying things made from repurposed items because they want to be part of this movement that is helping the earth.
A good place to sell your recycled creations is at craft fairs, flea markets or on Etsy, which has a large following of people who are passionate about eco-friendly items. So, make sure to look into how to start a small business on Etsy as well as how to sell on Amazon Handmade. It’s also best if you have a website where potential clients can search and see examples of all the different types of work you’ve done in this medium and how much they cost, but you can also join a like-minded community such as the r/upcycling forum on Reddit.
If you’re looking for more artistic inspiration and tips to help build your business as an artistic professional, check out the tutorials at CreativeLive. You’ll find everything from how to put together marketing plans that work wonders for your brand or photography workshops where they show you how to take better pictures in any situation.
Have fun and let your imagination run wild as you create art projects that are truly unique and more beautiful than anything else out there!